Tuesday, 5 March 2013


So, through the media, four anonymous priests (one of them ex) have managed a thorough character assassination on the now retired Cardinal O'Brien.   Last night's extended Newsnight Scotland - all 50 minutes of it - struggled to further deride the man who led the Catholic church in Scotland for many years.

Throughout my lifetime I've been suspicious of many religious organisations which are male dominated and Catholicism is one of them.  That doesn't mean to say I refute Christianity and its values, but feel it unnatural for people of the same sex to spend the majority of their lives without the company of the opposite sex.

Surely there can't be many people who have not thought there is something 'unusual' about priests counselling families when they have no experience of family situations themselves.

I once worked with a fervent Catholic woman who insisted she must leave work early each Friday because 'the father' called at teatime. Sometimes she would entertain us with anecdotes of his visit and it was particularly amusing when her husband, who converted to Catholicism when he married Frances, would ask the father where he'd gained his experience of birth control. That subject featured highly in the weekly sessions for some reason.  Perhaps it was because they were childless, I don't know.

I digress. Why have these four people waited 30 odd years before making there announcements?  That's puzzling. Surely they have had ample opportunity to achieve their revenge before now.

Is the Catholic church tainted?  No, this will be a 9-day wonder, but it doesn't help those of the Catholic faith in Scotland.  O'Brien was a good leader by all accounts and he's acted responsibly by immediately resigning.  Of course he may have been pushed but we shall never know.  The Vatican is renowned for its ability to stifle controversy and in particular that of a sexual nature.

It was only the other week Cardinal O'Brien suggested priests should be allowed to marry.  If only he'd made the suggestion 30 years ago he may not be in disgrace today.

There will be many in the service of the Catholic church who will be feeling uncomfortable with what has happened here in the past week.  It's reported that the Pope resigned to purge the church of 'the filth'.  Cardinal O'Brien is possibly the tip of an iceberg, yet he will continue to be publicly hung, drawn and quartered by the media.

As you will realise I have a little sympathy for the man because I understand he was well liked in his respective circle and was a 'people' person rather than a shadowy individual who only appeared as a figurehead.  My Catholic friends who know him speak highly of him and think no less of him now than they did a week ago. "He's confessed, apologised and resigned," I was told. When I suggested he will be remembered as a hypocrite I was firmly rebuked. "Let's remember some things we did when young that we'd rather forget."  Indeed. 


Joe Public said...

"... four anonymous priests (one of them ex) have managed a thorough character assassination on the now retired Cardinal O'Brien. "

"He's confessed, apologised and resigned," I was told. When I suggested he will be remembered as a hypocrite I was firmly rebuked. "Let's remember some things we did when young that we'd rather forget."

O'Brien lied when first accused.

Whatever you might have done when younger, I suspect you didn't then spend the rest of your career preaching to others against doing it.

You were right SR, and your friends misguided.

O'Brien was a hypocrite of the first order.

English Pensioner said...

Except when it is people who were abused as children and thought that they would not be believed, I am always suspicious of adults who "go public" long after the event. Here was a man who left the priesthood, why did he not complain then, after all he would no longer have had reason to keep quiet for fear it might influence his future in the church.

The CofE has married clergy, and whilst it is not immune from allegations of "improper conduct", I think that there are far less complaints than in the Roman Catholic Church.

There is also a problem with Gay clergy; a local church which got a gay curate lost about half the children from its Sunday School as parents withdrew them, many going to the adjoining parish. I don't think that this would be so easy in the Catholic Church.

Unknown said...

Might it be thought that the cardinal made a difficult situation worse for himself by his impersonation of the Rev Iain Paisley in his rantings against equal marriage proposals by the Scottish Government? The apocalyptic intemperance of his words when he knew what he had been up to I'm afraid condemn him to be a whited sepulchre.

Jo G said...

As a catholic myself I found the Keith O'Brien matter most distressing however I must say that following his own statement I am none the wiser as to what actually went on thirty years ago.

I also find it distressing that the mainstream media seem determined to connect the O'Brien issues with child abuse because there is no connection whatsoever between the two.

As for those at the centre of the claims made, I see them as pawns. The real "star" to emerge is Ms Catherine Deveney, the journalist who broke the story. She has rarely been off our screens since, not to discuss O'Brien, but to bang on about same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption. It seems to me the lady has an agenda of her own and that these priests and one ex-priests have been exploited all over again.

With an ongoing investigation underway that those who were the victims here abandoned that in favour of going public. The clear aim was to destroy Keith O'Brien as the timing seems to have been pre-planned to cause maximum damage. I find that vindictive personally but worrying in a wider sense. I also find it difficult that three of the victims are still in parishes while their parishioners know not what they did just over a week ago. I'm not sure they've been honest with their parishioners. I believe passionately in justice but I have problems with cases like this where every move made is part of another strategy altogether.

I thought Keith O'Brien was a good man. I suspect he still is. On the child abuse scandals that previously engulfed I wrote to him several times. His response was clear, as was his Easter message that year when he preached, that all involved in child abuse scandals should step down immediately. I am sad that the MSS seeks to connect him with child abuse too in their current ramblings when reporting his own particular meltdown.

Jo G said...

@Richard Thomas

Keith O'Brien did not "rant" against same sex marriage. He took a particular position, no more no less, and a position that was adopted too by other churches incidentally.

I support, to the hilt, Civil Partnerships. I am against same-sex marriage and I am sad that the gay lobby betrayed itself when it assured all of us at the time of Civil Partnerships that this was not a first step to demanding full marriage rights. Quite simply, they lied.

Sadly in the MSM that makes me a "homophobe" or a "bigot" yet neither is true. In the Scottish Government consultation exercise a majority (64%) were not in favour of same-sex marriage. Are they all bigots and homophobes? And is the homophobe word not the most powerful one around today in order to silence opposition? I definitely think so!

What shall we do with children, up for adoption, who want a mammy and a daddy? Shall we label them in similar terms if they are not keen on same-sex adoptions?

I wish the poor, the sick, the unemployed, the vulnerable and the sheer desperate had the clout of the gay lobby. If they did we would surely see the perfect world!

Keith O'Brien apologised to "all I have offended". But no, the gay lobby want their own separate apology.

I work with a perfectly reasonable gay man who found that hilarious. "The trouble with gay people Jo is that we will never stop thinking it is just all about us!" He said something else too on a more serious note. He thinks the evident power of the gay lobby in politics right now is going to increase resentment although it will be silent. He thinks the gay lobby is actually making things worse for gay people by seeking to present them as a special case at every opportunity and therefore more important than everyone else. He thinks the militants, by threatening anyone who opposes them with the "homophobe" label will do even more damage as times passes because they are using intimidation in order to further their own cause. He feels that will drive people to remain silent but also deepen resentment that such a small group has such a disproportionate influence politically. It worries him that in claiming to want equality the gay lobby, instead, wants supremacy: in claiming to wish to "blend" in, they, in fact, wish to stand out as a separate section of democracy which has the right to command governments to do their will or else. I found his views interesting especially when there were no grounds to call him a homophobe!

JimS said...

Agreed Jo G.

However did we get to the state where a fraction of a percent of the population seem to be getting their own way with everything and to have the unchallenged right to verbally abuse anyone that stands in their way?

I don't see what the cardinal did or didn't do in the past has any relevance to the validity of his current teachings. Repentance is a core characteristic of Christianity after all. Would we denounce a reformed drug addict who tried to persuade youngsters not to 'do' drugs?

Whatever the rights and wrongs hear the smell of a smear campaign is overwhelming.

pa_broon74 said...

I can't quite bring myself to forgive Keith O'Brien for the stance he took in light of what's transpired, however, since we don't quite know what actually did transpire; I won't condemn him either.

I can't condemn him for activities 30 years ago because I'd also, in a way, have to condemn myself. (Although I haven't abused my position, such as it is, in anyway, it's a thin line indeed.)

What I do condemn outright is his double standards and hypocrisy. I have no idea what went on 30 odd years ago, but for me, its that in light of his more recent opinions and pontifications (with which I disagreed enthusiastically) which are the problem.

In terms of his stance on gay marriage and some of the chat above about the Gay Lobby wanting supremacy, I would say, its absolute and total mince. What we (as gay folk) want is; normalcy, nothing more and nothing less.

More personally, I don't necessarily want it for myself, I have no interest in marriage (gay or otherwise.) I want it for young people growing up with the shadow of being different floating above their heads, its hard enough coming to terms with intrinsic differences when you're young, without out-of-date medievalists adding to the background din of disapproval with their neanderthal expositions on how 'they think things should be'.

Your faith and your interpretation of it stops at your door step and within the confines of your own skull, it shouldn't be foisted on others.

Beyond that, the catholic church is a male dominated hegemony, its leadership is mostly interested in one thing, perpetuating its hold on power. I feel bad for the rank and file, their faith is being insulted by the leadership of their own church.

Perhaps if that leadership didn't try to hold itself to such inhumanely high (and odd) standards, when they do mess up, their fall might be attenuated some-what.

William said...

"Your faith and your interpretation of it stops at your door step and within the confines of your own skull, it shouldn't be foisted on others."

Whereas other people should be allowed to foist their view of society on you.

Of course, what you're asking is impossible. You cannot reasonably tell people that any morality they possess, or anything that influences that morality, should have no bearing on how they vote or which laws they'd like to see introduced. It's only religious people, Christians in particular, that are told this.

I didn't like Keith O'Brien so I don't feel sorry for him. I don't quite know what his sexual misconduct amounted to so I guess the hypocrisy charge might be valid, I dunno. As a Cardinal, though, he could hardly claim the Bible was wrong about gay marriage or homosexuality whatever his own personal urges.

pa_broon74 said...


Homosexuality isn't a view or a faith, its a biological reality. It is as natural as heterosexuality or liking/not liking cauliflower, it is as intrinsic as any other biological or physical function.

I take your point though, you can't ask people to discard their beliefs or morality when voting and there will always be lobby groups for this and that.

I can't speak for the gay lobby, but I'm not telling anyone to be gay and marry within their own sex, so I shouldn't be told I can't if I so choose and as long as a church is happy to do it.

There should be no place for religion in a countries governance, Christian or otherwise.

William said...

This isn't really a gay marriage topic so I'll just comment on this - "as long as a church is happy to do it."

The various Christian churches have expressed disquiet over what will happen when someone, as is inevitable, finds a church that isn't happy to do it. I think the claimed legal protection for churches on this issue will crumble.

In some ways, I do agree with you. I think Keith O'Brien should have restricted himself to stating the position of the Catholic Church and left it at that. I think on too many subjects - sectarianism is another - he had too much to say and the Scottish Catholic Church, in general, is too politically minded. I'm not a Catholic but some Catholics I know seem to view it as an ethic/political identity first rather than a religious belief. There may be a welcome change of tone in light of O'Brien's revelations.

JRB said...

In his statement of apology, Cardinal O’Brien stated - “my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me”

But wait a minute …

… he is a priest – he is celibate - there should be no sexual conduct what so ever, let alone one falling below expected standards.

Celibacy is a fundamental principle of the priesthood, so throughout his career the Cardinal has opted to live a lie hiding the truth from his God, his church, himself and his parishioners. Such is hypocrisy.

And let us not castigate or question the four individuals, regardless of what some may wish to make of their desire for privacy or the timing of events.
The bottom line is they have all spoken the undenied and undefended truth.

The Catholic Church has fallen into an unholy mess.

pa_broon74 said...

Agreed William.

As I understand it, the position was, new laws would need to be passed at UK level (under the current settlement) in order to protect churches that didn't want to do it, whether that would've been enough is any ones guess.

I have family who derive a great deal of comfort from the church, I feel bad for them over this because while it might not undermine their personal faith, it does not bode well for the church as an organisation.

But then maybe this is all a necessary process the (Catholic) church is going through in order to renew and modernise?

subrosa said...

I agree he lied initially but soon owned up Joe.

I just don't think he deserves the press he's having now.

subrosa said...

Excellent comment EP.

subrosa said...

Richard, I didn't hear him ranting. All I heard was his opinion delivered in a balanced manner.

The man erred 30 years ago yet it take 30 years for his accusers to surface? Something not right there.

I'm not suggesting his behaviour was improper in the eyes of the Catholic church but I wonder if his accusers are completely blameless.

We're talking about adults here.

subrosa said...

We'll never find out what went on Jo. It seems as if the College back in those days was a type of Holywood casting couch.

Put groups of the same sex together in such environments and it's sure to bring sexual need to the surface. That doesn't mean to say O'Brien wasn't at fault, but we're not talking about him molesting children here, but adults who take responsibility for their own actions.

subrosa said...

We'll never be privy to what went on Jo, however we do know whatever happened was between adults.

The manner in which the media and gay lobby are behaving you would think he molested children.

For those four to complain now smacks of vindictiveness.

However, he was a leader in the church and the Catholic church disallows any form of sexual contact for their 'employees'. Totally stupid really because homosexual behaviour is perhaps are more prevalent in those circles than elsewhere.

subrosa said...

I have to agree with your colleague Joe.

The liars here are the gay lobby and there's so much evidence online that they insisted they would never want 'marriage' if they were granted civil partnerships.

subrosa said...

Pa-broon people's behaviour and opinions change with age. I'm the evidence of that. :)

I have to disagree. A close friend who hates to be described as 'gay' has written several times to the Gay Lobby asking them to stop their determination for supremacy over heterosexuals. She's had no response. They don't like it when 'one of their own' protest at their behaviour.

Actually she's 'one of our own' because her sexuality doesn't matter one jot to any of her friends and it took me 15 years of friendship before I realised her preference (although she lives with a woman). Who's business is it anyway?

Can't disagree with your opinion about the Catholic church. Mind you, there are other religious organisations which are totally male dominated too.

subrosa said...

Human beings will spread the word of their faith William - particularly if it's been 'good' to them.

Thanks for your comment.

subrosa said...

Auch pa-broon, you'll think I'm picking on you but I'm not. Honest!!

Homosexuality isn't a 'given' for some. In my lifetime I've known people who have drifted from same sex to hetero relationships easily. Most ended up with partners of the other sex through choice.

You can't compare it with cauliflower though. Cauliflower can be disguised in many ways and the digester is probably quite unaware.

But I see what you mean.

subrosa said...

You're right of course JRB, but put people (particularly men) in such confines and wait for the sparks.

Oh I think the four have some questions to answer; one being why they waited 30+ years to bring this to the attention of the Vatican. Were they concerned that (for 3 of them) their careers may have been curtailed upon complaint.

We really need to know the full details. After all 30 years ago they were all men not children. If they were naive enough to participate in sexual behaviour with their 'boss' then they are no better than him.

Woodsy42 said...

I certainly agreee that we don't know what he did, and it may have been a trivial youthful indiscretion - anyone who hasn't made any at all may throw the first stone. We should not judge until we know and put it in the context of the era it happened.
However, surely SR in some circumstances, like this when applied to someone in his position, to lie by omission is just as much a lie as to give false information?
Personally I have never liked or trusted most of the few Catholic clergy I have encountered.
It seems to me that if you advertise a job demanding celibacy you will naturally attract a lot of people with sexual hangups and problems who do not want to follow a normal sexual or family existence.

pa_broon74 said...

For clarity and because its an important point which needs to be understood (and is horribly misunderstood by those who'd use it to shore up their arguments about any sexual behaviour differing from the religious norm, whatever that actually is.)

When I said homosexuality is a biological reality, I should have said sexual preference is a biological reality.

Its a grey scale, not a one-or-the-other thing, so yes some people do meander (so to speak) but the majority of people live at either end of the scale, (most at the hetero end, I think its called bell curve?)

In any case, I can't quite feel sorry for O'Brien but all this attention (especially from the BBC) is all a bit tabloid and unseemly, the man is no longer in position, any further crucifixion (haha) in the press is pointless.

subrosa said...

I do agree with you Woodsy about the lying by omission and your other points.

However I don't agree with the sordid attitude of the gay community about this.

subrosa said...

It is a grey scale pa_broon and probably much more than anyone realises. Two people of the same sex living together does not necessarily mean they're in a sexual relationship, yet so many take it as read.

Years ago I knew two women who lived together and put up with whispering for years. I also knew they were just best friends and both had been badly scarred by bad choices of relationships.

I'd live with my best friend. We'd get on fine and have lots of laughs, tears and hugs - which we do anyway. That doesn't 'label' either of us as gay.

William said...

"I'd live with my best friend. We'd get on fine and have lots of laughs, tears and hugs"


subrosa said...

He he William. Good one! At least the house would be tidy. :)

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